Catholic Classroom: The Jesuits
Of the many, many Catholic religious orders in the world, the Jesuits (officially called the Society of Jesus) hold the honor of being the largest male religious order. But just who are the Jesuits?
Jesuits are priests and brothers who belong to the religious order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who experienced a profound conversion after being wounded as a soldier. St. Ignatius is known for his Spiritual Exercises, which are central to the order’s spirituality and their mission to find God in all things. Because of his background as a soldier, the Jesuits have a slight militaristic character and even sometimes call themselves the Company of Jesus.
Like all religious, the Jesuits take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. However, they also take a fourth vow of obedience to the pope in worldwide mission. Since their founding in 1534, their mission has taken the form of education, including the founding of universities; spreading the Gospel in many different parts of the world; and working as contemplatives in action in parishes and retreat centers and on campuses to help people discern God’s working in their lives.
In a less official capacity, Jesuits are known throughout the Catholic world for their practicality and for being great educators. Their Latin motto, “Ad maiorem Dei gloriam” (translated as “For the greater glory of God”) reveals the reason for all the work they do.
Our current pope, Pope Francis, is the first Jesuit pope in the history of the Church. Jesuits continue to play an important role in the Church as they live out their particular charism within the Body of Christ. As we remember St. Ignatius of Loyola today and honor the work of his order, we also pray for the intercession of the many Jesuit saints, including:
- St. Francis Xavier
- St. Robert Bellarmine
- St. Peter Faber
- St. Peter Canisius
- St. Aloysius Gonzaga
- St. Peter Claver
- St. Isaac Jogues
- St. Paul Miki
All you saints of the Society of Jesus, pray for us!